Journal of Minerals & Materials Characterization & Engineering, Vol. 9, No.1, pp.57-65, 2010 Printed in the USA. All rights reserved
A Comparative Study on the Microstructures and Mechanical Properties of
Al 6061 Alloy and the MMC Al 6061/TiB2/12P
T.V. Christy1,*, N. Murugan2 and S. Kumar3
1 CSI College of Engineering, Ketti, South India
2 Coimbatore Institute of Technology, Coimbatore, South India
3Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, South India
*Corresponding Author:
Al 6061 alloy is widely used for commercial applications in the transportation, construction and
similar engineering industries. It possesses excellent mechanical properties in addition to good
corrosion resistance due to which the alloy finds extensive application in naval vessels
manufacturing. Al-TiB2 composite is a metal matrix composite (MMC) that can be manufactured
using the in-situ salt-metal reaction. With TiB2 as the particulate addition the properties of Al
6061 alloy can be greatly improved. A comparison of the mechanical properties and the
microstructure of Al 6061 alloy with Al–TiB2 metal matrix composite containing 12% by weight
TiB2p manufactured through the in-situ process was presented.
Key Words: Al 6061 alloy, Al-TiB2 Metal matrix Composite (MMC), Aluminium Matrix
Composite (AMC)
Al alloy Al 6061 is widely used in numerous engineering applications including transport and
construction where superior mechanical properties such as tensile strength, hardness etc., are
essentially required. A typical chemical composition of Al 6061 is presented in Table 1. Its
superior corrosion resistance makes it a suitable candidate material for marine structural
applications. The demand for lighter weight, cost effective and high performance materials for
58 T.V. Christy, N. Murugan and S. Kumar Vol.9, No.1
use in a spectrum of structural and non-structural applications has resulted in the need for
fabrication of metal matrix composites (MMCs) of various types.
Table 1. Chemical composition of Al 6061.
Element Mg Fe Si Cu Mn V Ti Al
% 1.08 0.17 0.63 0.32 0.52 0.01 0.02 Remainder
In recent years, the aluminium alloy based MMCs have offered designers many added benefits as
they are particularly suited for applications requiring good strength at high temperatures, good
structural rigidity, dimensional stability, light weight and low thermal expansion [1-6]. The
major advantages of Aluminium Matrix composites (AMCs) include greater strength, improved
stiffness, reduced density, improved high temperature properties, controlled thermal expansion
coefficient, thermal / heat management, enhanced and tailored electrical performance, improved
abrasion and wear resistance and improved damping capabilities [7, 8]. One such MMC is Al –
TiB2p containing TiB2 as the dispersed second phase particle. When a molten metal or other
liquid phase containing dispersed second phase particles solidifies, interactions take place
between the advancing solidification front and the particles. Such interactions affect the front
morphology and the particle solidification as well. The solidification front pushes or engulfs the
particles. Due to this reason, the particles can be found at the grain boundaries, the interdentritic
regions, or within the primary grains themselves. This phenomenon found in many solidification
processes was observed by others [9, 10]. The effect of particulate silicon carbide on the
mechanical behavior of Al 6061 MMC has been studied previously by T. S. Srivatsan et. al.,
[11]. The TiB2 particles formed through the in-situ reaction process are found to stick together
forming agglomerates. Feng and Froyen also reported a similar finding while preparing the AMC
with commercial pure Al as the matrix [12]. The in-situ based manufacture of the AMC under
study was extensively reported in the literature [12, 13]. However, manufacture of the AMC
with Al 6061 as the matrix alloy containing TiB2p as the composite material is not widely
reported. The objective of the present work is to compare the mechanical properties and
microstructure of as cast Al 6061 alloy with that of aluminium MMC with 12% by weight TiB2p.
2.1 Composite Fabrication
Due to the various advantages listed above, Al 6061 alloy in as-cast condition was used in this
study. The AMC for this work viz., 12% by weight TiB2 particulates in Al 6061 matrix
Vol.9, No.1 A Comparative Study on the Microstructures and Mechanical Properties 59
(henceforth referred to as Al 6061 / TiB2 / 12p) was manufactured at the Department of
Mechanical Engineering, CSI College of Engineering, Ooty, South India through the in-situ
process involving the salt-metal reaction between the titanium containing K2TiF6 and the boron
containing KBF4 salts in the presence of molten Aluminium 6061 alloy. During the in-situ
reaction process, the elements Ti and B are introduced from the two salts (mentioned above) into
the molten aluminium and made to react within it.
As the salts are mixed stoichiometrically to form TiB2, TiB2 is the only intermetallic phase to be
formed by the reaction. The reaction scheme used to form the composite is given below:
3K2TiF6 + 22Al + 6KBF4 3Al3Ti + 3AlB2 + 9KAlF4 + K3AlF6 + Heat (1)
3Al3Ti + 3AlB2 12Al + 3TiB2 (2)
Aluminium in the form of rods was melted in an electrical resistance furnace using a graphite
clay crucible. The melt was taken to a temperature of 840°C. The premixed salts were then
introduced into the molten aluminum alloy and thoroughly stirred using a graphite rod at
intervals of every 10 minutes. The total reaction time allowed at the mentioned temperature was
1 h and the melt was later poured into a cast iron die for casting a rectangular composite plate of
size 10 cm x 25 cm as shown in Figure 1. Samples were prepared from the casted composite
plate for carrying out metallurgical and mechanical property evaluation studies.
Figure 1. Casted Composite Plate
2.2 Characterization of 6061 Al alloy and Al-TiB2 Composite
Figure 2 shows the X-ray diffraction pattern of the composite depicting the presence of TiB2.
Optical microscopic examination was conducted on both aluminium 6061 alloy and Al MMC
60 T.V. Christy, N. Murugan and S. Kumar Vol.9, No.1
following the standard metallographic procedure. The etchant used was 0.5 vol. % HF aqueous
solution. The photomicrographs taken on the top surface are shown in Figures 3 and 4. The
morphologies and microstructures of the fabricated Al-TiB2 composite as well as the fracture
surfaces of the tensile test specimens were observed by scanning electron microscope (Joel JSM
6360) using Cu-Kα radiation. The scanning electron micrographs and the fractographs taken are
shown in Figs. 5-7. The room temperature Brinnell hardness was measured on the top surface of
the composite on six locations and the average is presented in Table 2. Six numbers of tensile
test samples prepared as per ASTM-E08 standard were tested. The average value of tensile
strength obtained is also presented in Table 2.
Figure 2. X-ray diffraction pattern of the composite.
Figure 3. Optical Photomicrograph of
Al 6061alloy
Figure 4. Optical Photomicrograph of
Al-TiB2 composite
Vol.9, No.1 A Comparative Study on the Microstructures and Mechanical Properties 61
Table 2. Hardness and Tensile Properties.
Material Hardness(BHN) Tensile
Strength(MPa) Young’s
Modulus(GPa) %
(as cast) 62.8 134.8 79.8 8.0
Al-TiB2p 88.6 173.6 94.2 7.0
Figure 5. Scanning Electron Micrographs of the Al-TiB2 composite formed through the
‘in-situ’ reaction.
62 T.V. Christy, N. Murugan and S. Kumar Vol.9, No.1
3.1 Microstructure Characterization
X-ray diffraction pattern of the composite presented in Figure 2 shows that the composite is
consisted of aluminium and TiB2 in addition to traces of TiAl3, TiB and TiSi2. The presence of
TiSi2 is mainly due to the use of the graphite clay crucible and the silicon contamination from the
Tensile Fracture
Figure 6. SEM Fractographs of Al 6061.
Figure 7. SEM Fractographs of Al-TiB2 Composite.
Vol.9, No.1 A Comparative Study on the Microstructures and Mechanical Properties 63
clay [14]. Since the two salts viz, K2TiF6 and KBF4 are stoichiometrically mixed to form TiB2,
TiB2 is the main intermetallic component formed by the reaction. This is also confirmed by the
XRD analysis.
Figure 3 shows that the microstructure of 6061 aluminium alloy matrix contains Mg2Si (black)
and Fe3SiAl2 (grey) particles. Optical microscopic examination of the composite reveals the
presence of reinforcement particles in the form of clusters. From Figure 4 it is found that the
discontinuous TiB2p reinforcement phase being non-uniform in size and irregularly shaped are
dispersed randomly through the aluminium alloy matrix. Agglomerations or clusterings of the
TiB2p reinforcements of varying size and shape are observed resulting in particulate-rich and
particulate-depleted regions. Uniformly small and irregularly shaped particles intermingled with
larger TiB2p of varying size is characteristic of an agglomerated site. Besides the presence of
reinforcing TiB2p, the alloy is found to be rich in coarse insoluble iron-rich and silicon-rich
constituent particles, resulting from the presence of impurity elements, i.e. iron and silicon, in the
aluminium alloy.
The TiB2 particles formed through the in-situ reaction process are found to stick together
forming agglomerates Figs. 4 and 5. The tendency of TiB2 particles to cluster was found to be
very significant in the Al-TiB2 system as reported by Jha and Dometakis [14]. In the present
work also, the clustering of TiB2 particles in the Al matrix was found to be significant. The
cause of clustering is yet to be clearly explained. A number of theories so far proposed indicate
the contamination of the TiB2 particle surface as the reason for clustering. Al3Ti [15],
Magnesium [14] and reactive elements (e.g. potassium) from residual salt [15] have been
suggested as possible surface active agents. The traveling of the particles into clusters by oxide
films has also been proposed [17]. As negligible changes in the composite’s microstructure due
to increase in holding temperature have been reported [12], the holding temperature was
maintained at 840°C in the present experiment.
3.2 Improved Mechanical Properties in the Composite
It is evident from Table 2 that the composite exhibited a higher hardness than the aluminium
alloy. Also, it is found from the table that the composite has a higher tensile strength than 6061
aluminium alloy with reduced ductility. The significant improvement in the mechanical
properties of the composite when compared with the aluminium alloy can be attributed to the
distribution of TiB2 particles in the matrix.
Figures 6 and 7 show the scanning electron micrographs of the fractured surface of the
specimens. The cavities shown in the figures are the locations where the reinforcement particles
had resided in the matrix. In general, MMCs often behave asymmetrically in tension and in
compression and hence have higher ultimate tensile strength yet lower proportional limits than
64 T.V. Christy, N. Murugan and S. Kumar Vol.9, No.1
monolithic alloys. Such behavior of the composites lies with the factors governing matrix
plasticity which can be divided into two areas: those affecting the stress rate of the matrix and
those affecting the flow properties of the matrix through changes in microstructure induced by
inclusion of the reinforcement.
1. The composite Al-6061/TiB2/12p was successfully produced by the in-situ reaction procedure.
Strings as well as particulate agglomerates were present as disinct microstructural features of
the composite.
2. The manufactured Al-TiB2 composite exhibited higher values of hardness, tensile strength and
Young’s modulus than the base alloy.
3. The ductility of the composite was found to be slightly lower than that of the aluminium 6061
The authors thank the Naval Research Board of India, Defense Research and Development
Organization, New Delhi for providing financial support for this research. Thanks and
appreciations are also extended to Mr. Prakash, Lecturer in Chemistry, CSI College of
Engineering, Ooty, South India, the College Management and the staff of Mechanical
Engineering department for providing all physical facilities.
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